It could mean sitting down to watch a weepy film like Titanic starring Kate Winslet or Beaches with Bette Midler or melancholic tunes by singers Dido or Amy Winehouse could help get over a love-split.
The study contradicts popular opinion that upbeat music and humorous movies can help people get over a relationship break-up.
It says that people experiencing relationship problems are more likely to prefer aesthetic experiences that reflect their negative mood.
Study co-author Stephen Palmer, from the University of California at Berkeley, said: “Emotional experiences of aesthetic products are important to our happiness and well-being.
“Like a sympathetic friend, music, movies, paintings, or novels that are compatible with our current mood and feelings are more appreciated when we experience broken or failing relationships.”
The study authors said consumers experience serious emotional distress when intimate relationships are broken and look for a surrogate to replace the lost personal bond. Previous research claimed that people in a negative mood prefer pleasant, positive aesthetic experiences such as cheerful music and comedy films or TV programmes to counter their negative feelings. However, under certain circumstances, consumers in negative moods might choose aesthetic experiences consistent with their mood such as melancholy music and tear-jerking dramas even when more pleasant alternatives are also available. In one study, volunteers were presented with various frustrating situations and asked to rate angry music relative to joyful or relaxing music. Participants liked angry music more when they were frustrated by interpersonal violations such as being interrupted or someone always being late than by impersonal hassles such as lack of internet connection or a natural disaster. In another study, consumers were asked to recall experiences involving loss. Preference for sad music was significantly higher when they had experienced the break-up of a personal relationship compared to an impersonal loss like losing a competition. The authors said: “Interpersonal relationships influence consumer preference for aesthetic experiences. Consumers seek and experience emotional companionship with music, films, novels, and the fine arts as a substitute for lost and troubled relationships.” The research appears in theÂ Journal of Consumer Research.